Clips and Statements

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Calhoun's Racist Speech - Yes, the guy Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis is named after


Speech in the U.S. Senate
The “Positive Good” of Slavery
John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) of South Carolina was the most important proslavery politician in the country in the decades before midcentury.  Calhoun had a distinguished career in public service as a congressman, senator, cabinet member, and vice president.

In this speech, Calhoun responds to antislavery petitions sent to the Senate by abolitionist groups. Unlike most previous southern politicians, Calhoun thought white southerners needed to stop apologizing for slavery. Instead, he led the way in arguing that slavery was "indispen­sable to the peace and happiness of both" whites and blacks.  He claims  that instead of an evil, slavery is "a good- a positive good." This argument, and his strong states’ rights ideology, charac­terized the entire debate over slavery until the Civil War.

Calhoun began this speech by reading two antislavery petitions. He then began speaking against them.

The peculiar institution of the South--that, on the maintenance of which the very existence of the slaveholding States depends, is pro­nounced to be sinful and odious, in the sight of God and man; and this with a systematic design of rendering us hateful in the eyes of the world--with a view to a general crusade against us and our institu­tions. This, too, in the legislative halls of the Union; created by these confederated States, for the better protection of their peace, their safety, and their respective institution; --and yet, we, the representa­tives of twelve of these sovereign States against whom this deadly war is waged, are expected to sit here in silence, hearing ourselves and our constituents day after day denounced, without uttering a word; for if we but open our lips, the charge of agitation is resounded on all sides, and we are held up as seeking to aggravate the evil which we resist. Every reflecting mind must see in all this a sate of things deeply and dangerously diseased.
I do not belong to the school which holds that aggression is to be met by concession. Mine is the opposite creed, which teaches that encroachments must be met at the beginning, and that those who act on the opposite principle are prepared to become slaves. In this case, in particular, I hold concession or compromise to be fatal. If we concede an inch, concession would follow concession--compromise would follow compromise, until our ranks would be so broken that ef­fectual resistance would be impossible. We must meet the enemy on the frontier, with a fixed determination of maintaining our position at every hazard. Consent to receive these insulting petitions, and the next demand will be that they be referred to a committee in order that they may be deliberated and acted upon. At the last session we were mod­estly asked to receive them, simply to lay them on the table, without any view to ulterior action. I then told the Senator from Pennsylvania (Mr. Buchanan), who so strongly urged that course in the Senate, that it was a position that could not be maintained; as the argument in favor of acting on the petitions if we were bound to receive, could not be resisted. I then said, that the next step would be to refer the peti­tion to a committee, and I already see indications that such is now the intention. If we yield, that will be followed by another, and we will thus proceed, step by step, to the final consummation of the object of these petitions. We are now told that the most effectual mode of arresting the progress of abolition is, to reason it down; and with this view it is urged that the petitions ought to be referred to a committee. That is the very ground which was taken at the last session in the other House, but instead of arresting its progress it has since advanced more rapidly than ever. The most unquestionable right may be ren­dered doubtful, if one admitted to be a subject of controversy, and that would be the case in the present instance. The subject is beyond the jurisdiction of Congress--they have no right to touch it in any shape or form, or to make it the subject of deliberation or discussion.
In opposition to this view it is urged that Congress is bound by the constitution [specifically the First Amendment] to receive petitions in every case and on every subject, whether within its constitutional competency or not. I hold the doc­trine to be absurd, and do solemnly believe, that it would be as easy to prove that it has the right to abolish slavery, as that it is bound to receive petitions for that purpose. The very existence of the rule that requires a question to be put on the reception of petitions, is conclu­sive to show that there is no such obligation. It has been a standing rule from the commencement of the Government, and clearly shows the sense of those who formed the constitution on this point. The question on the reception would be absurd, if, as is contended, we are bound to receive; but I do not intend to argue the question; I dis­cussed it fully at the last session, and the arguments then advanced neither have been nor can be answered.
As widely as this incendiary spirit has spread, it has not yet infected this body, or the great mass of the intelligent and business portion of the North; but unless it be speedily stopped, it will spread and work upwards till it brings the two great sections of the Union into deadly conflict. This is not a new impression with me. Several years since, in a discussion with one of the Senators from Massachu­setts (Mr. Webster), before this fell spirit had showed itself, I then predicted that the doctrine of the proclamation and the Force Bill, ­that this Government had a right, in the last resort, to determine the extent of its own powers, and enforce its decision at the point of the bayonet, which was so warmly maintained by that Senator, would at no distant day arouse the dormant spirit of abolitionism. I told him that the doctrine was tantamount to the assumption of unlimited power on the part of the Government, and that such would be the impression on the public mind in a large portion of the Union. The consequence would be inevitable. A large portion of the Northern States believe slavery to be a sin, and would consider it as an obligation of conscience to abolish it if they should feel themselves in any degree responsible for its continuance, --and that this doctrine would necessarily lead to the belief of such responsibility. I then predicted that would commence as it has with this fanatical portion of society, that they would begin their operations on the ignorant, the weak, the young, and the thoughtless,--and gradually extend upwards till they would become strong enough to obtain political control, when he and others holding the highest stations in society, would, however reluc­tant, be compelled to yield to their doctrines, or be driven into obscu­rity. But four years have since elapsed, and all this is already in a course of regular fulfillment.
Standing at the point of time at which we have now arrived, it will not be more difficult to trace the course of future events now than it was then. They who imagine that the spirit now abroad in the North, will die away of itself without a shock or convulsion, have formed a very inadequate conception of its real character; it will continue to rise and spread, unless prompt and efficient measures to stay its progress be adopted. Already it has taken possession of the pulpit, of the schools, and, to a considerable extent, of the press; those great in­struments by which the mind of the rising generation will be formed.
However sound the great body of the non-slaveholding States are at present, in the course of a few years they will be succeeded by those who will have been taught to hate the people and institutions of nearly one-half of this Union, with a hatred more deadly than one hostile nation ever entertained towards another. It is easy to see the end. By the necessary course of events, if left to themselves, we must become, finally, two people. It is impossible under the deadly hatred which must spring up between the two great sections, if the present causes are permitted to operate unchecked, that we should continue under the same political system. The conflicting elements would burst the Union asunder, powerful as are the links which hold it together.  Abolition and the Union cannot co-exist.  As the friend of the Union I openly proclaim it, - and the sooner it is known the better. The former may now be controlled, but in a short time it will be beyond the power a man to arrest the course of events.  We of the South will not, cannot surrender our institutions. Too maintain the existing relations between the two races, inhabiting that section of the Union, is indispensable to the peace and happiness of both. It cannot be subverted without drenching the county in blood, and extirpating one or the other of the races. Be it good or bad, it has grown up with our society and institutions, and is so interwoven with them, that to destroy it would be to destroy us as a people.  But let me not be understood as admitting, even by implication, that the existing relations between the two races in the slaveholding States is an evil: - far otherwise; I hold it to be a good, as it has thus far proved itself to be to both, and will continue to probe so if not disturbed by the fell spirit of abolition.  I appeal to facts. Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually. It came among us in a low, degraded, and savage condition, and in the course of a few generations it has grown up under the fostering care of our institutions, reviled as they have been, to its present compara­tively civilized condition. This, with the rapid increase of numbers, is conclusive proof of the general happiness of the race, in spite of all the exaggerated tales to the contrary.
In the mean time, the white or European race has not degenerated. It has kept pace with its brethren in other sections of the Union where slavery does not exist. It is odious to make comparison; but I appeal to all sides whether the South is not equal in virtue, intelligence, patri­otism, courage, disinterestedness, and all the high qualities which adorn our nature. I ask whether we have not contributed our full share of talents and political wisdom in forming and sustaining this political fabric; and whether we have not constantly inclined most strongly to the side of liberty, and been the first to see and first to resist the encroachments of power. In one thing only are we inferior-the arts of gain; we acknowledge that we are less wealthy than the Northern section of this Union, but I trace this mainly to the fiscal action of this Government, which has extracted much from, and spent little among us. Had it been the reverse, --if the exaction had been from the other section, and the expenditure with us, this point of superiority would not be against us now, as it was not at the formation of this Government.
But I take higher ground. I hold that in the present state of civiliza­tion, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good-a positive good. I feel myself called upon to speak freely upon the subject where the honor and interests of those I represent are involved. I hold then, that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one por­tion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other. Broad and general as is this assertion, it is fully borne out by history. This is not the proper occasion, but if it were, it would not be difficult to trace the various devices by which the wealth of all civilized communities has been so unequally divided, and to show by what means so small a share has been allotted to those by whose labor it was produced, and so large a share given to the nonproducing classes. The devices are almost innumerable, from the brute force and gross superstition of ancient times, to the subtle and artful fiscal con­trivances of modern. I might well challenge a comparison between them and the more direct, simple, and patriarchal mode by which the labor of the African race is, among us, commanded by the European. I may say with truth, that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him; or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civilized portions of Europe-look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind super­intending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the for­lorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poor house. But I will not dwell on this aspect of the question; I turn to the political; and here I fearlessly assert that the existing relation between the two races in the South, against which these blind fanatics are waging war, forms the most solid and durable foundation on which to rear free and stable political institutions. It is useless to disguise the fact. There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South exempts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict; and which explains why it is that the political condition of the slaveholding States has been so much more stable and quiet than that of the North. The advantages of the former, in this respect, will become more and more manifest if left undisturbed by interference from without, as the country advances in wealth and numbers. We have, in fact, but just entered that condition of society where the strength and durability of our political institutions are to be tested; and I venture nothing in predicting that the experience of the next genera­tion will fully test how vastly more favorable our condition of society is to that of other sections for free and stable institutions, provided we are not disturbed by the interference of others, or shall have sufficient intelligence and spirit to resist promptly and successfully such inter­ference. It rests with ourselves to meet and repel them. I look not for aid to this Government, or to the other States; not but there are kind feelings towards us on the part of the great body of the non­slaveholding States; but as kind as their feelings may be, we may rest assured that no political party in those States will risk their ascen­dency for our safety. If we do not defend ourselves none will defend us; if we yield we will be more and more pressed as we recede; and if we submit we will be trampled under foot. Be assured that emancipa­tion itself would not satisfy these fanatics: -that gained, the next step would be to raise the negroes to a social and political equality with the whites; and that being effected, we would soon find the present condi­tion of the two races reversed. They and their northern allies would be the masters, and we the slaves; the condition of the white race in the British West India Islands, bad as it is, would be happiness to ours. There the mother country is interested in sustaining the supremacy of the European race. It is true that the authority of the former master is destroyed, but the African will there still be a slave, not to individuals but to the community,-forced to labor, not by the authority of the overseer, but by the bayonet of the soldiery and the rod of the civil magistrate.
Surrounded as the slaveholding States are with such imminent perils, I rejoice to think that our means of defense are ample, if we shall prove to have the intelligence and spirit to see and apply them before it is too late. All we want is concert, to lay aside all party dif­ferences, and unite with zeal and energy in repelling approaching dangers. Let there be concert of action, and we shall find ample means of security without resorting to secession, or disunion. I speak with full knowledge and a thorough examination of the subject, and for one, see my way clearly. One thing alarms me-the eager pursuit of gain which overspreads the land, and which absorbs every faculty of the mind and every feeling of the heart. Of all passions avarice is the most blind and compromising-the last to see and the first to yield to danger. I dare not hope that any thing I can say will arouse the South to a due sense of danger; I fear it is beyond the power of mortal voice to awaken it in time from the fatal security into which it has fallen.

John C. Calhoun, "Speech on the Reception of Abolition Petitions, Delivered in the Senate, February 6th, 1837," in Richard R. Cralle, ed., Speeches of John C. Calhoun, Delivered in the House of Representatives and in the Senate of the United States (New D. Appleton, 1853), 625-33.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why not walk?

Going for a walk is our favorite activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and we walk 6 percent more on average than a decade ago. Walkable communities — where schools, shops and entertainment can be easily reached on foot — are a red-hot real estate trend.
The public clearly understands that walking is good for them and their families. A national surveycommissioned by Kaiser Permanente found that 94 percent of Americans believe walking is good for our health, 91 percent believe it helps us lose weight and 85 percent that it reduces depression. If more Americans adopted this easy habit, we could save as much as $100 billion a year in health care costs.
Americans will get even more encouragement to take a stroll this year when the U.S. Surgeon General’s office releases an official Call to Action on Walking and Walkability, which highlights the mounting medical evidence that walking is one of the best ways to prevent disease and stay healthy. Yet the CDC reports that 52 percent of all Americans still don’t meet the CDC’s recommended minimum for physical activity: 30 minutes a day five days a week for adults, and one hour a day for kids.
The public opinion survey sponsored by Kaiser Permanente (which powers the Every Body Walk! Collaborative) listed people’s most common reasons for not walking:
— Few places within walking distance of my home: 40 percent
— Don’t have time: 39 percent
— Don’t have the energy: 36 percent
— Lack of sidewalks or speeding traffic: 25 percent
— No one to walk with: 25 percent
— Crime in my neighborhood: 13 percent
How to talk about walking so others will listen 
This spring more than two dozen leaders of the emerging walking movement gathered in Washington, D.C., at a meeting sponsored by Every Body Walk!, to work on a compelling message to encourage more Americans to walk. Here’s a compilation of ideas to overcome these barriers and make walking more visibile:
— Wear gold shoe laces: The African-American women’s walking organization Girl Trek, outfits members with gold shoelaces for their walking shoes to reveal themselves as regular walkers. 
— Call on the power of art: Public art on the theme of walking serves as a reminder to take a stroll. Artists design crosswalks, trail signs and gateways to walking paths that capture people’s imaginations.
— Enlist high-profile local figures to schedule regular public walks. People will don their sneakers for the chance to walk with a public official, athlete, entertainer or physician.
— Plan a walk with friends and family. Suggest a walk first and then maybe a meal or drink or movie or round of cards
— Walk Every Wednesday: Around the country, people are organizing walks every Wednesday. (#WalkingWednesday on twitter). 
— Suggest a walking meeting: Energize that afternoon discussion by doing it on foot.  Do your next phone meeting standing up. 
— Organize a walking club: Like a book club, but with water bottles instead of novels.
— Turn your coffee break into a stroll: Recruit co-workers for a refreshing trot out on the sidewalk or around the campus.
— Issue a walking challenge: Try some friendly competition by seeing who’s the first to walk 100 miles. North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital sponsored a contest encouraging its employees to walk the distance from New York to Paris, with some winning a free trip to the French capital.
— Establish a Black Belt for walkers: Many of us are drawn to compete with ourselves.  Create awards for people hoofing it a half-hour for 365 days straight or striding the distance of the earth’s equator (24,901 miles).
— Post signs around town listing the walking times to popular destinations: Walk Raleigh, a fledgling group in Raleigh, N.C., hung up 27 handmade signs around downtown that became so popular the city posted their own official versions.
— Mark a definite walking route: A walk after dinner is an enduring custom in Mediterranean and Latin American countries. Italians call it a passeggiata. People generally follow the same route through the heart of town, making it a social occasion as much as exercise regimen.
— Tell everyone: “If they can walk in L.A., we can do it here.” Famous for auto-cracy, Los Angeles actually harbors many walkers and hosts the Big Parade, an “epic public walk” that covers 40 miles and 100 public stairways over two days accompanied by food, music and art. Every town could create its own walking parade or festival.
Jay Walljasper writes, speaks, edits and consults about how to improve community life. He is author of “The Great Neighborhood Book and All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons.” His website:

Kid Lit's Primary Color: White -- REPORT

Of 3,200 children’s books published last year, only 93 featured black characters—and the numbers weren’t great for Asians, American Indians, and Latinos either. What gives?
If you’re a parent of a child of color, finding relatable kids’ books can be something of a challenge. Just ask Lori Tharps, an African-American journalism professor and the mom of three bilingual, bicultural children. “I’m not trying to make my kids read about slaves all the time,” she says. “A black wizard story would be nice. Flat Stanley could be Asian or Latino. But they’re not there… at least it would be one less blond-haired, blue-eyed heroine or hero to worship.” A survey of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013—out of a total of 5,000—found that only 67 were by African-American authors, and only 93 titles centered on black characters. That’s the lowest number of black protagonists since 1994, when the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison began tracking that data. The numbers were similarly abysmal for children’s books by or about American Indians, Asians, and Latinos — proving that publishing, like the film and TV industry, has a long way to go when it comes to fostering and promoting diversity.
So why are bookshelves so whitewashed? For one thing, children’s books about diverse characters don’t sell (though there are exceptions, such as Octavia Spencer’s middle-grade mystery, Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit). Says one children’s-book executive, “If we thought there was a demand for more nonwhite characters, we would try to fill it.” Sales can “certainly impact visibility and output,” says Rosemary Brosnan, editorial director at HarperCollins Children’s Books. Award-winning Mexican-American writer Gary Soto knows this all too well: He had to end his 20-year career writing children’s books due to low sales. “I think many buyers think, ‘We already have a Gary Soto book in our library or classroom; we don’t need any more.’” Tharps, a former EW staffer, says, “Part of this problem could be solved if the great books that are out there that feature characters of color were given more promotional push by publishers and not shoved into the multicultural section.”
Another factor: Children’s book editors are predominantly white females and traditionally “publishing houses are run by white men,” explains Robin Adelson, executive director of the Children’s Book Council. “Hiring a diverse array of people would help reflect the different children we’re publishing for.” Afro-Latina author Veronica Chambers sees the ranks of older editors giving way to twentysomethings who often dismiss the absence of diverse authors with what she calls an “it is what it is” mentality. “If editors are not cultivating relationships with writers of different backgrounds, then it makes it difficult for writers in a vacuum to do something with commercial sensibility,” she says. “What the poor numbers say most graphically is that they really don’t care.”
But it can be tough to find authors of color, says Scholastic executive editor Andrea Davis Pinkney, who is African-American and has worked in the field for nearly 30 years. “It takes significant effort to find authors [of any race] who can tell great stories that will stand the test of time,” she says. Then there’s the challenge of finding books that children across all ethnicities actually want to read. “I’m the mother of two teenagers who inform me there needs to be more for African-American boys that’s fun and exciting,” Pinkney says. Tharps agrees, saying kids crave books that “feature characters doing exciting, interesting, brave, or smart things. It gets hard to find the series books, the comics, the budding romances that feature black, brown, and other faces.”
A campaign for books that reflect the rapidly shifting demographics of this country—where children of color will outnumber white children by 2019—has begun to gain traction. In a New York Times op-ed, best-selling children’s-book author Walter Dean Myers argued that “books transmit values…. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?” His son, illustrator Christopher Myers, echoed his appeal, citing “the apartheid of children’s literature.” Even novelist Jennifer Weiner has championed the cause, asking book lovers on Twitter to join her in a campaign to promote nonwhite characters with the hashtag #colormyshelf. “Reading is everything,” says Tharps. “Books often give us our first glimpse of how other people experience the world. How do we expect white kids to understand the lives of Asian, Latino, African, and Indian kids if everything they read is about kids who look and sound like them? The way things stand now, this is a lose-lose situation for everyone.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why I am glad George Bush is President" by Daniel Pinchbeck (Arthur No. 5/June 2003)

Why I am glad George Bush is President
by Daniel Pinchbeck
originally published in Arthur No. 5 (June 2003)
It is painful to admit it—I flinch away from saying it—but I am glad George Bush is President.
Don’t get me wrong: I consider him the worst and most dangerous leader this country has ever had. He is a smirking abomination, a fascistic fratboy, an avatar of the deepest, darkest murk burbling at the bottom of the American soul. In the 19th Century, Emerson wrote, “The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself.” The current administration is the culmination of generations of American minds aiming lower and lower, gnawing upon their own emptiness and projecting it into the void. Attention spans and memories have contracted to the length of one news cycle. ADD and Alzhemier’s are the perfect metaphors for this amnesiac age.
I am glad that George Bush is President because humanity has to make a choice, and our time for making that choice is quickly running out.
In the greater scheme of things, Enron doesn’t matter. Halliburton doesn’t matter. “War on Iraq” doesn’t matter. Israel doesn’t matter. Al Quaeda doesn’t matter. Art doesn’t matter. Film doesn’t matter. TV doesn’t matter. Celebrity doesn’t matter. Ego doesn’t matter. America doesn’t matter.
Only the biosphere matters. Without a radical change in direction, the imminent collapse of the planet’s life support systems is what counts.
The coral reefs are disappearing, the polar ice caps are melting, fresh water is becoming a scarce resource, every ounce of our blood contains a catalogue of industrial chemicals. The fancy gadgets we bought yesterday are leeching toxins into Third World soil today. Around the globe, desperate peasants are fleeing their parched and ruined lands to congregate in the slums of vast “mega-cities.” Within several decades, at the current rate of resource-depletion, there will be no tropical forests left on the Earth. Before that can happen, however, the structures holding together contemporary civilization will have disintegrated along with the environment.
Modern consumer culture is a vast machine of entropy, breaking down the planet’s life support systems and destroying indigenous cultures to continue its unsustainable addictions. The United States-­the worst offender-­consists of less than five percent of the world’s population guzzling 25% of the global production of energy and, by some accounts, more than 40% of the world’s resources. Bush and Cheney are old-fashioned gangsters, but Bill Clinton and Al Gore were smiley faced snake-oil salesmen for the corporate globalization that has unleashed its scorched-earth effects across the planet. Good riddance to them, their lies and their arrogance and their compromises. The changes that need to be made go far beyond what our current political system can enact–even if the system hadn’t been juked by crooked “ATM-style” voting machines and hanging chads.
It is time for the great dehypnotizing of the citizens of Planet Earth.
I agree with Bush’s spiritual advisers: We have entered the Apocalypse in the “Book of Revelation.” But who do they think was being referred to when the prophet wrote: “Destroyed will be the destroyers of the Earth?” And who are the meek who will inherit the planet when the destroyers are done with it? Could it be the indigenous people, who never lost contact with the heartbeat of the planet, who have endured the arrogance of forgotten empires in the past and will continue to endure?
Do you know where “Wall Street” got its name? Is it any surprise that Wall Street refers to the original barrier erected by the Dutch to keep out the Indians? Our economic system was founded on that dialectical divide. From the Indian perspective, the history of America is repression, treaty violation, and genocide. Despite our rhetoric, America has never been shy about using brutal force to loot the resources we desire and murder those who get in our way, whether in the “Wild West” or the Middle East today. Perhaps, when imminent environmental collapse brings the current form of civilization to an end, we will finally lose our contempt for indigenous wisdom. Was it the Indians who polluted their waters, destroyed their forests, irradiated their children, stockpiled nuclear and biological weapons, or added every living and nonliving thing into their maniacal calculus of human greed? But of course, when the Hopis marched to the UN to warn of the imminent fulfilment of their ancient prophecies, nobody took them seriously.
The Lakota shaman Black Elk said, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Ask yourself: What vision is our society following? Is our goal simply to continue maximizing profits and the level of comfort for the privileged few as the global environment melts down and brings a quick end to the human experiment on this planet? And for those privileged few, is the sci-fi fantasy of bio-engineered life-extension in gated communities looking out on a degraded world overwhelmed by desperate refugees an inspiring one? The government’s pursuit of “homeland security” through surveillance and force is an obsolete fantasy that will lead to disaster. Real security can only emerge from authenticity, generosity, transparency, and inner calm. In his Empire of Disorder, Alain Joxe writes, “The only benefit for the globalization of finance and military force for humanity is that it obliges us to think of a global means of equitable distribution, which is the only way to avoid the worldwide civil war that threatens to take the form of cold barbaric violence.”
Ultimately, modern society is an artifice held together by the mesh of people’s faith and belief in the system. When that faith collapses, the system will fall. We saw this, most recently, in East Europe in 1989. An alternative vision to the present consumer society is beginning to emerge and clarify itself. To paraphrase cyber-theorist Pierre Levy, the Internet provides a potential model for a global, horizontal democracy, one that would be “immanent and molecular” rather than the “transcendent and molar” structure of the current system. For Levy, the new system would be based on individual responsibility and on humanity’s “collective intelligence” working together in real-time. There are extraordinary scientists and visionaries who have developed models of alternative economies and currencies, methods to bioremediate toxified land and water, ways of producing clean energy, and industries that make almost no waste (for more info on some of these projects, check out The development of modern information technology, the “global brain” of humanity, will facilitate the instant transmission of transformative ideas across the Earth, when it becomes necessary.
What is required is nothing less than the psychic and spiritual regeneration of humanity. To paraphrase the visionary Jose Arguelles, we need a “mass moral revulsion” away from the techno-dystopic direction of our current civilization. Despite current appearances, I suspect this will happen, soon, on a global scale and in a more conscientious and deeply transformative way than it did in “the Sixties.” It can be sensed, now, as an undercurrent, a distant rumbling in the mass subconscious. Humanity’s yearning for liberation and truth is due for an imminent volcanic eruption. And when it happens, I will be glad that George Bush was President, so that I got to watch him fall.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In Midwest, fight over labor unions to be at heart of 2012 election

Although labor unions have had some reservations about President Obama, they're still looking to him as their best ally in the 2012 election. Meanwhile, Republicans who are hoping to further curb unions are putting stock in Mitt Romney.
Temp Headline Image
In this June 8 file photo, President Obama talks about the economy in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. Four years ago, Obama won the upper Midwest, where union membership is densest. But since then, Republicans in this part of the United States have targeted labor rights.
(Carolyn Kaster/AP/File)


The fight over labor unions in the Midwest is a big reason why this region is shaping up to be a major battleground in the general election this fall.

Four years ago, Barack Obama won the upper Midwest, where union membership is densest. But since then, Republicans in this part of the United States have targeted labor rights. Legislation curbed bargaining rights in Wisconsin and made Indiana a "right to work" state. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed a law that limited collective-bargaining rights for all public-sector workers, although voters repealed it last year.

Moreover, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has proposed cuts to state pensions and closures of prisons, which has rankled organized labor because it would eliminate thousands of public jobs.

Confronted with such moves, unions have also mobilized. In Michigan, they're trying to put a measure on the November ballot that would make right-to-work legislation unconstitutional.

And overall, unions and their supporters are now spending big money: Whereas political-action committees representing unions parceled out $73.1 million for political activity in 2008, they've spent almost $2 billion since that time, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.

Although unions have had some reservations about Mr. Obama, they're still looking to him as their best ally. Meanwhile, Republicans who are hoping to further curb unions are putting stock in Mitt Romney.

"The Midwest is absolutely crucial in the presidential race," says Jeff Hauser, spokesman with the AFL-CIO. "Those are not states that can be taken for granted."
Since Obama took office, the numbers for union membership have shrunk. Nationally between 2008 and 2011, public and private union membership dropped by 3.3 percent. The numbers in the Midwest are more dramatic: a 14.5 percent slide in Wisconsin, 13.9 percent in Indiana, 12.9 in Michigan, 9.7 in Ohio, 8.1 in Pennsylvania, and 6.7 in Illinois, according to

Mr. Hauser says that four of the six states that the AFL-CIO plans to focus heavily on ahead of the election are in the Midwest: Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and the western half of Pennsylvania. The strategy will be to pursue undecided voters through grass-roots organizing.

The economic uncertainty in the Midwest is expected to galvanize voter turnout, which is expected to help Obama, says labor historian Mike Smith of Wayne State University in Detroit.

"I would not be surprised if there was greater union turnout than what we had four years ago because so much has happened to labor unions in the Midwest, especially if you had thousands of members in each state who lost their jobs during the crisis," he says. "They're a group to be reckoned with."

But enthusiasm for Obama and other Democrats is expected to be somewhat blunted in certain areas of the Midwest where unions have felt betrayed, says Henry Bayer, executive director of the Illinois chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Among other things, such betrayal stems from Obama's absence and the lack of financial support from the national Democratic Party during the recent gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin, in which Gov. Scott Walker (R) retained his seat.

Still, such shortcomings don't amount to enough for unions to abandon Democrats for Republicans, labor experts say. "The fact is, the labor movement at large has not been happy with Obama because he hasn't done enough for them; but on the other hand, what's the alternative?" Mr. Smith says.


Sunday, July 08, 2012

Seventeen magazine's vow to celebrate all body types: It's about time.

Seventeen magazine vows to never change the shape of girls' faces or bodies in photos. If we don’t reconfigure the way girls see themselves on TV, in movies, and in magazines, even smart teens will believe the media lie that their worth is in fastidious attention to the superficial.


In the August issue of Seventeen magazine, editor-in-chief Ann Shoket responds to a fierce campaign to “keep it real” by vowing to keep photo shoots transparent, celebrate all body types, and never change the shapes of girls’ bodies or faces. And it’s about time.

Many teen girls are caught in the body-image trap, but it snares people of all ages. Last month, talk-show hostAnderson Cooper kicked off his guest – the British mother Sarah Burge – because he could no longer hear her defend the decision to give her eight-year-old daughter vouchers for breast implants and liposuction, redeemable when she turns 18. Ms. Burge has reportedly spent more than $500,000 in plastic surgeries to become “the human Barbie,” as she calls herself.
The following week, news broke that the US SenateFederal Credit Union sent out a mailing with a photo of a smiling tanned blonde featuring large fake breasts in a low-cut, tight shirt. The mailing urged credit union members to consider borrowing cash for any upcoming “big plans.”
The over-tanned human Barbie could be any Botoxaddict I see at the beach every summer in California’sOrange County. In fact, the city where I was raised, Irvine, Calif., is so notoriously appearance-conscious it ranks as the No. 1 city in America in household spending on high-end fashion.
Last year, I returned to my hometown to lead several discussions on the documentary film “Miss Representation.” The film, written, directed, and produced by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, attempts to refute the media portrayal that “a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality,” as the film’s website describes it.
I had high hopes of creating radical change around issues of female empowerment and body image among Irvine’s youth. But I found resistance instead.
After I asked a question about the difference between growing up male and female, one young woman insisted that this difference – of girls being pressured to dress or act in a certain way – “just doesn’t exist anymore. There is no pressure in high school.”
I was speechless. She attends my alma mater, and when I went there in the early 2000s, girls obsessed about weight – and teeth whitening, shopping, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and hair salons. With plastic surgery, it’s getting worse. And all over Orange County, mothers sign waivers for their underage daughters to tan.
In the all-girl groups I led, I tried to steer the talk about body image to leadership and empowerment. But the girls consistently re-directed. “Guys are only into really skinny girls, like Lady Gaga” one teen admitted, “so I’m always on a diet.” The group eagerly echoed, “I KNOW!” and “ME TOO!”

So much for no pressure in high school.
On the flip side, Lady Gaga tries to empower youth with her new Born This Way Foundation. But I believe female youth need to look elsewhere for a leader in the next body-image revolution. After all, like the high school girls I met suggested, Lady Gaga’s strutting on stage in a bra and panties like a stripper has not helped them one bit on campus. High school boys watch her suggestive videos and expect their girlfriends to perform the same role.
As long as we don’t reconfigure the way girls see themselves on TV, in movies, on billboards, in fashion magazines, and in music videos, even our smartest teenagers will continue to believe the media lie that all their worth is in their fastidious attention to the superficial and transitory.
Michelle Obama is working hard to cultivate nutrition and healthy living awareness. We need more female leaders like writer Lisa Bloom, author of the book, “Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World,” and documentary maker Jennifer Siebel Newsom. They can help create a new generation of empowered females around the topic of healthy female body image.
Various youths are finding their own way to combat the media canard that a woman can only be attractive and happy if she is skinny.
Julia Bluhm, a teen from Maine, created a petition demanding that Seventeen print one unaltered photo spread per month. With fellow activists, she handed the petition – with more than 84,000 signatures –  to the executive editor of Seventeen. The magazine listened, and has committed to “celebrate every kind of beauty.”
These efforts are vital if we are to prevent the next media and beauty obsessed mother from giving her preteen daughter vouchers to grow up and become another human Barbie.
Chelsea Carmona is the West Coast regional manager of The OpEd Project, which aims to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas in public discourse. Joe Loya, an essayist, playwright, and author of the memoir, "The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber," contributed to this commentary.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Obama and the 1%

Obama defies base, hires Wall Street lobbyist for re-election campaign

President Barack Obama’s new senior campaign adviser is a longtime Wall Street lobbyist, and has the potential to damage the president’s aspirations to appeal to the protesters currently “occupying” New York City’s Zuccotti Park.
Obama’s new adviser, Broderick Johnson, has an extensive history of lobbying for big banks and corporations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2007, he lobbied for JP Morgan Chase and in 2008 Johnson lobbied for Bank of America and Fannie Mae. From 2008 through 2010, he lobbied for Comcast and in 2011 he lobbied for Microsoft.
Johnson is currently a partner at D.C.-based communications firm Collins Johnson Group, which boaststhat it excels at “providing superior strategic planning and political consulting services to multinational corporations, government entities, political campaigns and parties, elected leaders, nonprofit organizations, issue groups, investors and entrepreneurs.”
Including open houses and social events, Johnson has visited the White House 17 times since 2009, according to White House visitor logs. One of those meetings was with Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.
In early 2009, Johnson was named partner at lobbying firm Bryan Cave LLP’s Washington, D.C. office. In that role, his responsibility was to “establish and lead the firm’s new Public Policy & Governmental Affairs Client Service Group.”
That means that during those White House visits, Johnson was a registered lobbyist.
Johnson also donated more than $150,000 of his own money Democratic candidates and causes since 2008. Public political donation records show Johnson has, since 2006, never donated to a conservative or a Republican.
Perhaps most troubling to those who normally would consider themselves Obama’s 2012 base, though, is how Johnson has lobbied on behalf of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Huffington Post previously reported that Johnson is a “former Bryan Cave LLP lobbyist registered on the Keystone XL account” and that Bryan Cave LLP earned approximately $1.08 million lobbying for TransCanada between 2009 and 2011.
Environmentalists are upset about the near-finalized pipeline proposal that would allow TransCanada to build a $7 billion, 1700-mile pipeline through the heart of the United States. If the State Department approves the proposals and the pipeline is built, it would transport crude oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada to U.S. refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.
Liberal group Friends of the Earth, which adamantly opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, is furious with Obama’s decision to hire a former pro-pipeline lobbyist. The group is disgusted with what it considers Obama’s blatant support for crony capitalism.
“Apparently the hope and change idealism of the 2008 campaign has been replaced by cynical status quo insiderism for 2012,” Friends of the Earth spokesman Nick Berning told The Daily Caller. “It’s as though the Obama campaign were intentionally trying to alienate its base.”
The Obama re-election campaign appears to have tried to hide or downplay Johnson’s lobbying history, as the original campaign press release announcing his hire completely ignored it. Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse hasn’t returned TheDC’s request for comment on the issue, either.
Later, though, Politico reported that an anonymous Obama campaign official said Broderick “is no longer a lobbyist — he deregistered in April — and he will not discuss any matters related to his former firm’s clients with the campaign.”
The Republican National Committee, however, thinks this kind of behavior on the part of the Obama campaign is typical and to be expected from the president.
“This is just more of the same from the president that promised he would change Washington,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in an email to TheDC. “While President Obama publicly attacks lobbyists and Wall Street, he’s more than happy to use their influence and cash to fuel his campaign.”
Even though it’s hiring Wall Street lobbyists, Obama’s 2012 campaign plans to channel the Occupy Wall Street movement into an attack on Republicans,according to the Washington Post. Obama has announced public support for the protesters, too. In an October 6 news conference, Obama said that the protest movement “expresses the frustrations the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country.”
“And yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place,” Obama added.
It’s unclear how, if at all, Obama can account for the inconsistencies between his campaign rhetoric and his actual political actions. Hiring Johnson represents another test for Obama, if he’ll actually address concerns about the former Wall Street lobbyist’s past.
Johnson’s wife, National Public Radio host Michele Norris, also announced she plans to recuse herself from hosting the taxpayer-subsidized radio network’s All Things Considered program through the 2012 election because of an apparent conflict of interest.
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